Germany, France plan fund for start-ups in digital offensive

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BERLIN (Reuters) - France and Germany said on Tuesday they planned to set up a 1 billion euro fund to support start-ups in a bid to boost Europe’s digital economy and help it narrow the gap with the United States.

In the second Franco-German conference on digitalization, President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who were joined by top ministers, pledged to transform their economies together.

“We want to create a large digital economy on a Europe-wide scale,” Hollande said. “We must be pioneers, Germany and France, digital pioneers,” he added.

There were few concrete steps announced, however.

“Growth capital is still something that we are lacking,” said German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, noting how much easier it was to raise funds in the United States.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the fund would include credit from European countries and private investment.

They also highlighted the importance of improving cyber security cooperation, especially for cloud services that are crucial for small firms.

Berlin has been trying to lure start-ups to move to the German capital and one in eight jobs in Berlin is created by the digital sector, according to the city’s government.

($1 = 0.9427 euros)

Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Paul Carrel and Madeline Chambers; Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris; Editing by Tom Heneghan